Emails between a top aide and an ally of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie imply that lane closures along a heavily-traveled bridge between Manhattan and the Garden State — specifically, the area of Fort Lee — suggest the move was political, as the Republican governor’s political rivals have long thought. Christie has, in the past, labeled the shut-down a traffic problem. Fort Lee’s mayor, a Democrat, refused to endorse the governor’s reelection campaign. And it’s not just a local spat when the governor involved is considered a GOP presidential front-runner.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticizes the Obama administration in a memoir scheduled for release later this month. Gates reserves particularly strong words for Obama’s Afghanistan exit strategy, accusing the president of advocating the plan despite believing that it would fail. He also says Obama dislikes Afghan President Hamid Karzai. These revelations come in the midst of urgent U.S. efforts to secure Afghan agreement to a lasting security agreement between the two counties. Karzai and his government are already somewhat hostile towards the deal, and the Gates revelations are unlikely to help matters.
Syria has started shipping its chemical weapons out of the country, following a disarmament deal brokered by Russia and the U.S. in September. The first consignment of chemical materials left the country yesterday aboard a Danish ship escorted by Russian, Chinese and Norwegian vessels. The volatile cargo will now be taken to Italy and then carried to international waters by the U.S. military to be destroyed. The weapons shipment was due to take place by the end of 2013, but was delayed by intense fighting and poor logistical management.
With reports suggesting that Al Qaeda controls more territory in the Middle East than ever before, the Iraqi government is struggling to contain violence in Anbar province. It has lost control of the key cities of Ramadi and Fallujah and local Sunnis are rejecting the Shi’a-dominated central government. Threats of military action in Fallujah and suppression of anti-government protests have inflamed anger and increased support for Sunni militants. Iraq is already under huge strain due to the conflict in neighboring Syria. Worryingly, it may be nearing a civil war of its own.
The Spanish Royal Family is going through a rough patch. The latest blow to the monarchy’s already tarnished image comes from preliminary charges of tax fraud against Princess Cristina, whose husband has long been facing accusations of diverting public funds through his nonprofit foundation. It is the first time a direct relative of the king will appear in court. Despite the royal couple denying any wrongdoing, it will take more than words to restore the credibility of a crown that, according to polls, only 41 percent of Spaniards support.
Rodman angrily defends North Korea visit. (The Independent).
Four people killed by U.S. helicopter crash in England. (BBC).
Nearly a million flee violence in Central African Republic. (CNN).
U.S. Congress moves closer to extending unemployment benefits. (NPR).
Five decades ago President Johnson visited an isolated Kentucky community, crippled by unemployment. He was trying to drum up support for his newly announced “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Today, with government aid in place, there are better roads and schools, but the county – which became the face of poverty in the country – is still one of the poorest, with jobs still scare. Which begs the question: Is it time to declare war again?
Retired New York police officers and firefighters have been charged in one of the largest cases of social security disability fraud ever. The 106 involved were paid $21.4 million in benefits, but hundreds more may be linked to the scheme, which may have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The defendants said they were incapacitated by psychiatric disabilities, but Facebook photos showed them fishing, riding motorcycles and driving helicopters. More than half of those charged claimed that their disabilities were caused by the Sept. 11 attacks.
For the first time, public schools in Germany will offer classes on Islam to primary school students. The classes, taking place in Hesse State, will employ state-trained teachers and specialty textbooks, and are designed to support the integration of Germany’s large Muslim minority. The new curriculum teaches Islamic ethics alongside more established Christian ones. Officials hope that by attempting to connect the different religious and ethnic strands in German society, they will prevent the type of radicalization that lead two young Germans to die in Syria after answering the call for jihad.
Kandahar, a city divided by cement walls erected in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, has become a canvas for American soldiers’ commentary on the war. Since 2011, graffiti tags made using rudimentary warzone materials have covered the walls with everything from stencils of WWII-era pin-up girls to Looney Tunes characters to “Fight Club” quotes. For many, war graffiti has provided a therapeutic and creative outlet, artistically portraying the experience of American troops in Afghanistan. The question is, how can these monuments and images be preserved when the walls come down?
Using live performance and video footage, Reid Farrington has brought a dream match-up to life. “Tyson vs. Ali” uses the physicality of the boxing match to explore the psyches of the men in the ring. The aggressive, bewildered Mike Tyson may provide a strong contrast to the elegant yet brash Muhammad Ali, but the production illuminates startling similarities in the psychological battles that both men had to fight. How a face-off between the two greats would end is anyone’s guess, and Farrington doesn’t choose a winner. Rather, the play ends with a grim portrayal of what boxing cost both Tyson and Ali.
Greg Maddux, a four-time National League Cy Young Winner and 18-time Golden Glove Winner, and former teammate Tom Glavin, both 300-game winners, are also first-ballot Hall of Fame inductees. The final tallies were announced this afternoon. Frank Thomas joins them as well. Maddux’s bid to become the first unanimous inductee was thwarted by Ken Gurnick, who left the pitcher off his ballot because he played during the period of endemic performance-enhancing drug use. Other candidates from that era, such as Barry Bonds, will likely be locked out.